Tuesday, 12 October 2010

More on diet and change

Talking about change, another great exercise we were taught on the Eating Disorders course I attended was the yes-no exercise.  Here you list 10 things you feel define you, that you do most days, and 10 things that you don't do.  For example (cutting it short): I always take my handbag when I leave home, I eat lots of fruit and veg, I wear low heels, I check my email, I cook for others; I don't wear make-up, I don't drink coffee, I don't snack between meals, I don't watch TV news, I don't leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight.  Then the idea is to see if you can say yes to something you would generally say no to, and say no to something you would normally say yes to.  Try with just one thing each day for a week (so, a total of 7 from your list of 20).

How this relates to dieting and issues with food is that we often get very fixed habits around food, too.  For example, ideas about not snacking between meals, which we may have had drummed into us as a child, aren't helpful if it means we get so hungry that when dinner time comes we eat our main meal and dessert and then some more.  The suggestion on this course was that we should eat regular small meals and snacks throughout the day, preferably including protein (meat, fish, eggs, cheese, quinoa, soy) and carbohydrates (pasta, bread, potatoes), or nuts and seeds, which have an almost equal balance of both.

The logic behind this is based in physiology.  If you just eat carbohydrates, your blood sugar shoots up and then drops down fast as insulin gets pumped into your system.  This encourages all kinds of bad things like diabetes and sugar cravings.  What makes it much worse is that high insulin stops our cells letting carbohydrates in to be used as fuel, so those carbs may be converted to fat instead!  Bizarrely, therefore, if you eat a lot of carbs you still feel hungry, you may put on weight, and at the same time your body, deprived of protein and essential nutrients, believes it is starving!

Far better, then, to eat regular meals with small snacks in between, and always include protein.  The course leader suggested that protein calories shouldn't really count as such, as they are so necessary and help strengthen the body and process other nutrients, as well as satiating hunger.

Oftentimes, though, we have fixed habits, for example: I always eat a doughnut with my morning coffee; I don't eat meat; I always have pasta for dinner.  None of these may be bad by themselves, but they may not help us to have a balanced food intake over the whole day.

Working on being more flexible, whether it be in what we wear or how we get to work, will help us to accept change as a constant.  And then, maybe, we can also start to change what we eat so that it is more healthful (rather than "healthy").

Are you up for the yes-no challenge?

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